Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When to Give Up on Your First Book

It's time for me to shelve Sacred Fire and move on. This was an impossibly hard decision to make, and one I've been battling for years. I just can't keep pushing for this book. I got 85 rejections on this round of querying (that's not including the rejections I got from other rounds), and I had a total of six agents look at the book and say no.

My decision has nothing to do with the numbers, though. The truth is, I'm not going to pursue this book any further because I don't want to. I have zero desire to rewrite any of it. Other projects are more appealing to me. In the end, that's all that really matters.

At the last Historical Novel Society Conference, an agent said something that's been burned in my memory. I told her about my book, and I could tell right away she was unimpressed. Then she asked me how long I've been working on it. I told her six years. She gave me this look like I was the biggest fool on the planet. "Why?" she asked.

The question caught me completely by surprise. Because of the American Dream, I wanted to say. Because you can do anything you set your mind to. Because you should never give up. Because if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Isn't that what you're supposed to do?

Once I read a blog article where the author talked about when to shelve your first book and move on to the second. She said many of her friends regretted how much time they spent trying to make their first manuscript work, but none of them regretted putting it away to start a new novel. 

For a long time, I've asked myself if I would eventually regret putting so much work into Sacred Fire. I'm not sure if I have any regrets. All I know for sure is I won't regret moving on to my second.

Maybe I'll pick it up again someday, perhaps when the market wants Ancient Rome or after I've made a name for myself with a different novel. Until then, up on the shelf it goes.


  1. That is a brave decision to make - but good on you for going with it! It sounds like the time is right to set it aside.

    Perhaps you can self publish it in future, if you think you really want it out there.

  2. Pretty brave. Now you can start writing that story about the time traveling Professor Pilgrim that sneaks into museums and urinates in 2000 year old buildings.

  3. Teralynn: You know what happened to John Grisham's first novel that no one wanted, right? Ever heard of A Time to Kill? They all wanted it eventually! - Kathee Nelson

  4. That is a brave and hard decision, one I made myself several years ago--but I hadn't gotten as far as querying it, and I admire your bravery and persistence! Now that I'm older and have worked on a couple different kinds of novels, I have some very good ideas (at least I think they are right now...!) for an entirely new story that is based on the same setting and premise as my first WIP, which I think will work a lot better. Maybe someday a new Vestal Virgins story will come to you, and you'll already have all that research under your belt when it comes. Best wishes as you move forward!

  5. Teralynn: Please don't think that you've wasted your time writing Vestal Virgins. Think about where you were before you started Vestal Virgins and where you are now in your writing. I'm sure you'll see how far you have come during that time. Just focus on your love of writing and everything will come to fruition in its own time.


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